Finding and Nurturing 'Good Energy People'
A senior executive explains how her company attracts and retains the people who will best represent its values.
By Corinne Clawson
From the moment I had my very own interview at Premier Nutrition Corporation three years ago, I knew this company was different. Having spent over 10 years in human resources recruiting and interviewing hopeful candidates, I felt like I knew every interview question in the book. During the interview, I was expecting to discuss my qualifications, strengths, weaknesses -- the usual. The first thing that caught me by surprise was PNC doesn't even use the term "human resources." Instead, the department is called "people support," a term I've come to fully embrace and own as my role. You can also imagine my curiosity when asked about the charitable causes I was passionate about and why, what types of sports and physical activities I enjoyed, and what being a "builder" meant to me and how I embodied it. Though these questions were initially unusual to me, I now see how they are essential factors to PNC's unique, amazing culture and I now ask them in every interview I conduct with potential candidates.
Two phrases encompass PNC's culture: "good energy" and "people first." For those who may not know, PNC is comprised of a collection of brands -- including power bars, juices and powders -- that are designed to give people the good energy they need to lead healthy, active lifestyles. But the good energy doesn't stop there -- it lives within PNC's employees, who call themselves the "good energy people."
PNC's good energy is evident as soon as you walk into the office. When I arrive each morning, I am always greeted by a positive, supportive, energetic and team-oriented group of people, in addition to the 15 dogs who come to the office weekly and help spread good energy through PNC's halls. As a nutrition company, PNC employees embrace and live the healthy lifestyle the company's products promote. Whether through fitness classes at the office gym or company-wide health challenges, PNC employees bond with each other, challenge themselves, and are encouraged by senior management to be active. These good energy efforts extend beyond the walls of the PNC office to its surrounding communities. Twice a year, PNC employees leave their desks to give back to the community together, as an entire company, partnering with a local Bay Area charity or cause. The company also partners with two charitable organizations voted on by all PNC employees each year, and even has a Volunteer Grants Program to provide monetary incentive for PNC employees to volunteer.
PNC's culture is also "people first" in that employees are viewed as the company's most important asset; hence why my job is referred to and acted as "people support" instead of the traditional "human resources." I find myself constantly inspired by senior leadership's efforts to empower and appreciate PNC employees. In addition to making sure each employee's voice is heard and treating them with respect and empathy, the leadership team motivates employees by recognizing and celebrating their accomplishments -- both big and small, professional and personal. This frequently plays out in the office through "ringing the bell," a huge cow bell situated in the middle of the office to bring everyone together for good news, whether it be a faster month-end close, a new product launch, wins with retailers or personal milestones like a wedding, engagement or new baby.
On a larger scale, if the company reaches its quarterly numbers, PNC holds a "State of the Company" event where the entire PNC team gets together to review the status of the company's earnings. Afterward, the team always does something fun, such as a biking over the Golden Gate Bridge, kayaking or going to a San Francisco Giants game. Furthermore, if the staff exceeds its annual sales goal by five points, the entire company gets an all-expense paid trip to Hawaii. If they exceed that goal by an additional five points, they each get to bring a partner on the trip. Ultimately, these efforts invest in PNC's most important asset -- its employees -- by showing them that their efforts can make a difference and never go unnoticed.
When you put all of these elements together, you get a community that challenges and grows employees professionally yet supports them emotionally and physically. Representative of this holistic impact on PNC employees' lives, PNC was certified by Great Place to Work in 2017 and 2018, a certification we're extremely proud of as it's based on feedback from current employees. This certification is something I am sure to highlight when marketing PNC's culture to prospective employees because hearing praise from current PNC team members is often the most impactful endorsement.
I've been fortunate to hire 130 PNC employees in my tenure as senior manager of people support and have learned several important lessons in doing so. One is to identify the candidates who don't just look good on paper, but who also fit the company's culture. Whether it's hiking, weight training or running a marathon, the majority of PNC team members enjoy physical activity, so the candidates who stand out are those whose values align with its values of being champions of positive nutrition. I've also learned to evaluate candidates on how passionate they are about working in an energetic, team-oriented environment. At PNC, employees believe they're better together, and everyone's voice is heard -- from the leadership team all the way down to entry-level employees. Therefore, it's important to hire people who possess qualities of awesome team players, including reliability, respect, commitment, enthusiasm and strong communication skills, to name a few. Selecting the right new hire not only furthers PNC's culture, but ultimately leads to better business results, team collaboration and less turnover.
As I look to the remainder of 2018, I am excited to interview dozens of potential PNC employees as the company plans to add 30 new positions. The entire team looks forward to adding innovative ideas, voices, backgrounds -- and most importantly, good energy -- to PNC.
Corinne Clawson is the Senior Manager of People Support at Premier Nutrition Corporation.